What’s in the bag, Part 2 – The side

Do you find artichokes interesting? I know I do. It’s like nature’s little secret hiding place. I wonder who was the first person to try to figure out if they were edible. I mean, they’re not especially ‘come hither and take a bite of me’ looking. Who do you suppose look at one and thought ‘I bet the heart of this unfriendly looking greenery is yummy’? I don’t know, I’m sure Wiki does, but I’m too lazy to look it up right now. What I DO know is that I’m glad that curious person went to town on that first artichoke and passed it on to his or her loved ones to enjoy.

When Lindsay came home with about 4 of these, my first reaction was panic. Then I remembered I had steamed artichokes about 12 years ago, so they weren’t completely foreign. The ones he picked up were different in that they had the stems attached. All 6-8″ of stems.

My first task was to find out if the stems were edible and look for suggestion on how to prepare both, stem and choke. I wanted something other than steaming and dipping them into butter, so imagine my elation when I read that the long stems were edible AND that sometimes they are fried! A meal was born.

The few recipes I found for frying the artichokes, suggested frying them in some olive oil. Nothing fancy. Just sorta pan frying. I decided to take a step further and bread them before deep-frying. I ended up with French Fried Artichoke Stems; a perfect accompaniment to the NY strip steaks in this recipe.

Now, I must admit that the preparation of this side dish took some doing. First, I separated the stems from the chokes, then trimmed the inedible bits. Finally sliced them into sticks before dipping them in buttermilk and panko crumbs in preparation for the fryer. I also breaded the chokes themselves–or tried to. They didn’t really hold on to the buttermilk very well, but they were still delicious, particularly once you got to the hearts.  Here’s what I did.

4 artichokes with stems attached
1 lemon
1-1/2 cp flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cp buttermilk (or regular)
1-1/2 cp panko crumbs
Oil for deep-frying

Fill a bowl with cool water and squeeze the lemon juice into it, leave the lemon halves in the water. Cut the stems from the chokes. Pare the tough peel off the stems and drop them in the bowl of water as you remove all the bark. Then trim the chokes by removing loose leaves, and snipping the points of the leaves left. Quarter the chokes and dunk in the water bowl. Slice the trimmed stems into sticks.

Preheat oil to 375°.  Set up an assembly line. Combine the flour and seasonings. And put the buttermilk and panko crumbs in 2 separate bowls/containers. First dredge the sticks in the flour, then dip in milk, finally roll through panko. Repeat. The chokes will pick up some of the breading, especially on the areas where the leaves are still tight.

Fry them in hot oil until golden brown, sprinkle some sea salt as you pulled them out of the oil. Enjoy!



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